Cybersecurity

FBI warns of Anonymous hacks into federal systems

Anonymous - Guy Fawkes mask

The online hacker group Anonymous is being blamed for a series of infiltrations into federal networks that included the theft of personal information on more than 104,000 government employees, contractors, and others according to a Reuters report.

The FBI has reportedly warned that attacks, dating back to December, have hit the departments of Energy and Health and Human Services, the Army, and possibly other federal agencies, according to an internal memo cited by Reuters.

“It is unknown exactly how many systems have been compromised, but it is a widespread problem that should be addressed," the memo said.

The memo sourced the hacks to the shadowy, loose-knit group of cyber-activists called Anonymous, which has claimed responsibility for distributed denial-of-service attacks and intrusions against business and government websites worldwide, including an attack on eBay after its subsidiary PayPal stopped processing donations to the controversial site WikiLeaks.

Hackers were reportedly able to gain entry to the computer systems via a flaw in Adobe’s ColdFusion web development software. The FBI indicates that the attacks are in retaliation for criminal prosecutions against hackers, including the case of Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide before his trial for freely distributing copyright-protected academic papers was set to begin in January.

The Department of Energy has been a frequent target of hackers. In August, a hacker pleaded guilty on charges of multiple intrusions into agency supercomputers. The same month, DOE disclosed information on a data breach that compromised information on 14,000 employees. That attack was made through the ColdFusion vulnerability, and could be among the incidents the FBI is now attributing to the Anonymous group.

About the Author

Adam Mazmanian is executive editor of FCW.

Before joining the editing team, Mazmanian was an FCW staff writer covering Congress, government-wide technology policy, health IT and the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to joining FCW, Mr. Mazmanian was technology correspondent for National Journal and served in a variety of editorial roles at B2B news service SmartBrief. Mazmanian started his career as an arts reporter and critic, and has contributed reviews and articles to the Washington Post, the Washington City Paper, Newsday, Architect magazine, and other publications. He was an editorial assistant and staff writer at the now-defunct New York Press and arts editor at the About.com online network in the 1990s, and was a weekly contributor of music and film reviews to the Washington Times from 2007 to 2014.

Click here for previous articles by Mazmanian. Connect with him on Twitter at @thisismaz.


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